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Firms Join Fight Against AIDS, TB in Guangdong
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Some of the biggest names in global business have joined hands with the government to help 5 million migrant workers in Guangdong Province avoid or fight tuberculosis (TB) and HIV/AIDS.

The China Health Alliance, which was launched yesterday in Beijing, will co-ordinate the project in the South China province from this autumn.

Founding members of the alliance include global consultant Accenture, pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, medical technology provider BD (Becton, Dickinson and Company) and the China National Textiles and Apparel Council.

The services offered include education, medical tests, treatment and support, said Francesca Boldrini, director of the Global Health Initiative of the World Economic Forum yesterday.

The forum will work with the alliance to tackle AIDS and TB; and the programme will expand to other regions after two years.

Migrant workers from rural areas account for 80 percent of TB cases in China; and with the heavy influx into cities, curbing the spread of large-scale TB and HIV infection is an immense challenge.

The China Health Alliance is expected to bring together member companies, the Chinese Government, United Nation (UN) agencies and non-governmental organizations to respond to the growing economic and social threat of AIDS and TB in the country.

"The pilot programme in Guangdong will specifically target migrant workers employed by suppliers of a number of member companies," Boldrini said.

"Migrant workers are the toughest to reach with policies and programmes. Business is ideally placed to reach out to them and this is why we believe the China Health Alliance is a major step," she said.

The member companies vowed to adopt non-discriminative policies towards TB, HIV and AIDS patients.

Boldrini added that their experience proved that when the public and private sectors come together to tackle disease, the impact is noticeable.

China ranks second in the world behind India in TB infections. It is estimated that 45 percent of the population in China was infected with a latent form of TB. The current number of active cases stands at 4.5 million, representing 15 percent of the global total.

The HIV/AIDS epidemic continues to grow in China. It is estimated that 650,000 people were living with HIV last year in China. Of them, 70,000 were new infections, according to figures provided by Wu Zunyou, director of the venereal disease and AIDS prevention and control centre under the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.

Two months ago, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria was launched in the country with US$120 million promised over the next five years to help tackle the three deadly diseases.

(China Daily September 12, 2006)

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